New Years’ Day. 2011. The day started around 1 pm when a haunting Spanish song from some long past decade wafted into my room from the roof or a nearby building. Tired, but no hangover, that’s what not drinking much will do. So far the day was off to a good start, but how to kill the time. Breakfast, shower, and why not mosey over to Parque 3 de Febrero (aka the Palermo park with the lake) to read a book. Along the way I stumbled into what must have been the start of the Dakar Race which starts and ends in Buenos Aires. They’ve been setting up for this even for a few weeks now, and the continual buzz of the helicopter overhead with the lines of people told me it must have gotten underway.
I saw a couple motorcycles and cars go by but couldn’t see why people stood around for hours watching. In the park, cross-legged by the banks of the lake I opened the book but looked elsewhere. Across the lake I saw palm trees, a plane taking off from the domestic airport, and my past year. I saw specific occasions when I’d sat in this very area, and the people I was with, or the people I saw if I was alone. I’m still here, but they’re somewhere else. Bothered by the memories of good times past I decided to take off my shirt and lay down to soak up some sun. Being in an office five days a week takes away most of my chance to get a nice tan, and since I’m so fair skinned to begin with, a burn is the most likely result when I do get outside for an extended period of time.
Laying back I closed my eyes so my eyelids could get their share as well. All around me conversations seemed to melt into one as the wind blew dust and bits from the ground towards us. A thing happens when you’ve lived overseas and work hard enough at a language, that after a while you no longer have to think about what you’re hearing. You simply understand it, and don’t even need to process it. It’s such a level of fluency that it’s as if you’re speaking your native language. It neither affects you nor interests you, it’s simply a series of words which if don’t include threats based at you, don’t deserve your notice. Sometimes I forget I’m listening to or speaking in Spanish because it’s simply the language that I’m involved it.
But while laying back with my eyes closed, I couldn’t help but notice that after a while I kept hearing the exact same things over and over again, but from different voices. Now interested, I trained my ears to listen for certain words from the people walking by, and what I found just drilled home how funny and predictable Argentina can be sometimes. The most common words that I heard, in no particular order, were “Dale!” “Boludo,” and “Asado.” “Okay!” “Asshole” (among other translations), and “Barbecue.” To someone who’s never been to Argentina, you might not understand the context, but if you’ve spent enough time here you’ll know that these are three essential words to life in this country. The three magic words of Argentina.